I have rather suddenly realised that, for decades, I have been not-believing the detailed accounts of dreams that I read all over the place.
I suppose I must have read many tens of thousands of words of detailed dreams in the books of Freud, Jung and their descendants; and in all manner of non-fiction on spiritual and paranormal themes... And I have been quietly not-believing them all along.
This was triggered by hearing a lecture (by a Rudolf Steiner followers - and Steiner gave detailed accounts of dreams) - in which he described in detail a dream he supposedly had, with various spiritual symbolisms and implications; exciting, weird, moving... and realising that I Didn't Believe It. No Way!
I am very interested by dreams - much more so than most people, and for more than forty years - and I have of course had many thousands of dreams... several per night. But never have I had a dream that could accurately and honestly have been described in the detailed and descriptive way used in so many published accounts.
What I recall from dreams is much more like images, or short segments - I cannot remember the stages and transitions - and I beyond such snatches, I would not find it possible to verbally-describe or to write-up the dream in a satisfactory 'public' way - a way that really captured its actual quality. The dream falls-to-pieces in my hands when I attempt to communicate it.
Furthermore, I have never (in real life) met anyone who was convincingly able to do any better or more than myself.
And yet - I am asked to believe that all over the place, in all kinds of situations, are a majority of people who can recall their dreams in detail and describe them satisfactorily - rather like short stories by Henry James! - to the extent that entire edifices of insight and knowledge have been built upon this foundation. (Yes, I'm talking about you, Sigmund...)
As I say - I Don't Believe It. I believe, instead, that the meaningful and sequential dreams, the exciting and moving dreams - as they appear in the spoken and written accounts - are fabricated; consciously or unconsciously; wittingly or unwittingly; whether from from joining-up genuine fragments or from whole-cloth; whether from wishful thinking or simply with degrees of dishonesty ranging from casual self-deception to calculated manipulation.
The thing about real/ actual dreams is that they are not meant to be remembered. They surely have a function - or at least represent the workings of a process, albeit one that remains mysterious; but they are not created to be remembered, or else people would be able to remember them - whereas many people I have spoken with claim not to dream, at least not usually.
I am not saying that dreams are meant not-to-be-remembered - but that clearly there is not a functional mechanism or instinct by which they are remembered. As soon as we wake, we can feel the dream sliding through our grasping memory, leaking away even over just a few seconds - and much too rapidly to capture.
There are some specific dreams that I do remember in greater detail (although still aware that much has gone). These dreams probably do have some kind of different or additional function, I can probably lean something from them. But even these rare, clear, significant-feeling dreams lack the kind of clear, sequential, recall-ability that we take for granted in waking life.
Dreaming is a qualitatively different state from awake consciousness - in particular time passes at an extremely different rate, and the dreaming consciousness is a different person than the waking consciousness.
And that difference is exactly why I am convinced that people don't remember dream content in the ways claimed. After all, if one dreams many hours in a few seconds (as I often have done, and others have reported); it is not surprising that this cannot be expressed in terms of waking life - writing-up a dream is like trying to describe in words a piece of music, a sculpture or a smell!